Hit & Run

Free Trade Debate


Cato, The American Prospect, A World Connected and The Nation have joined to have an online symposium about globalization and free trade. The site already features many useful links, pro and con. (Link via Instapundit.)

NEXT: Green Means Fly

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  1. Nafta and other agreements are not free trade, they are quota systems, this point cannot be stressed enough. By the way, does anyone know of a mutual fund that focuses on export industries?

  2. vote Howard Dean and we can end free trade. he also promises "no dead dictators" on his watch.

    libertarians for dean, 2004!

  3. Phill - care to expand or link to an explanation of the quota systems imposed by NAFTA?

  4. Lets all sit in a circle and talk about how much we agree...

  5. I hate seeing things like Robert Kuttner's essay title: "Big business welcomes globalization -- but only when big business benefits." The implication being we should ignore arguments for free trade because they are made by big business which will gladly trash free trade when it's not in their interest. And of course it's true, big business WILL trash free trade when it's not in their interest! But that doesn't prove free trade arguments are fraudelent, it just means you should judge each argument on its own merits NOT on WHO makes the argument or whether the arguer is consistent!


  6. Some people who advocate kindness are unkind. Therefore, kindness is bad.

  7. Um, Fyodor-

    If Big Business will trash so-called free trade, that's a legitimate argument against free trade as proposed, in and of itself. You don't take rafts out to sea, and you don't cobble together a policy that will be trashed as soon as it's implemented.

    You seem to have confused the argument itself with a relevant side detail (big business espouses free trade).

    Frankly, it's telling that you've gone off on someones imagined prejudice about "big business", as opposed to offering some insight in how to prevent something you genuinely see as an obstacle to free trade.

    But then, I guess it's easier to void an argument by citing a debators prejudices (Kuttners assumed against big business), instead of addressing their legitimate argument (Big business will shred "free trade", leading to unforseen, assumed negative consequences).

    Pot, this is kettle- you're black.

    I think you broke my irony meter.

  8. Big business, for the most part, will always be against true free trade since it forces them to compete against foreign competitors without subsidies provided by the state.

  9. >>By the way, does anyone know of a mutual fund that focuses on export industries?

  10. Sir Real,

    I don't know how you interpreted my use of the word "trash," but what I meant is that big business is AGAINST free trade when it suits big business (or more specifically, any particular business) to be against it. IN GENERAL, business and economies are most efficient when unencumbered by regulations and tarriffs. But any SPECIFIC business or industry will do better with tariffs or regulations (or especially outright subsidies!) that favor THAT particular business or industry over others. That's called self-interest. But there is no reason we can't accept the argument for free trade (because it makes sense economically, not because big business advocates it) while rejecting arguments for favoritism. The point I was making that many on the left make an ad hominem argument that seeks to discredit the idea of free trade purely because "big business" can seem so hypocritical (and I use scare quotes cause I don't know if there are actual individuals who contradict themselves this way) on the issue. Have I made myself clearer?

    So, what are you talking about with your own view of "trashing", anyway? Are you claiming that free trade is somehow unenforceable?

  11. Matt,

    Exactly, any business would love to have protections or subsidies that favors it over others. But when it's OTHER businesses that have favorible arrangements, it behooves a businessperson to argue for free trade in order to get rid of those arrangements. If the ONLY way we had to judge the whether free trade was good or not was to listen to business people, we would likely be getting mixed signals.

    But of course, that's NOT the only way we have to judge the legitimacy of free trade arguments.

    Understand yet, Sir Real?

  12. Sir Real,

    BTW, the poster known as "in other news..." evidently does understand. I don't know if he was backing me up or trying to say that my point was so obvious as to not be worth bothering with, but he clearly understood what I was saying and agrees.

  13. fyodor-

    Free Trade is completely unenforceable, and will be long after you and I are dead. I don't need to recite the long, sad litany of third world economies destroyed by the combination WTO-mandated trade liberalization and first world protectionism to know that. The arguments for free trade always focus on the "real free trade" just around the corner, if we could only get every industrialized country in the world to unanimously agree. When free trade's myriad real-world failures are pointed out, we are told that it's not "real free trade".

    To be blunt, this is a version of the "no true catholic" argument, and is the same tactic used by most idealogues to defend against contradictory evidence.

    Finally, your scare quotes are uncalled for- one famous hypocrite (CEO) of the kind you speculate exists runs the USA (free trade except for steel, timber, food- ah hell, free trade for everyone but us).

  14. Understand yet, Fyodor?

  15. Sir Real,

    I don't think that you could show that third world countries are worse off when they liberalize trade, even in the face of first world protectionism.

    The third world is not helped when they institute protectionist barriers. They have measurably less opportunity than they would otherwise have. Products cost more than they need to to people who can't afford to pay the premium.

    Our tariffs on steel and lumber are asinine and cruel, but Nigeria helps itself not one whit by instituting similar barriers.

  16. Sir Real,

    I understand you are in possession of a "long, sad litany of third world economies destroyed by the combination WTO-mandated trade liberalization and first world protectionism." Please send one (1) copy of said litany, care of this blog, including as much substantiating evidence as you may reasonably care to demonstrate in each case.

  17. The reasons most libertarians are "free-traders" is because it is unenforceable. It's all the tariffs, regulations, subsidies, etc. that are enforceable (to a degree).

  18. Sir Real,

    First off, it's clear that I was talking about an entirely different issue (albeit under the same general subject of free trade) than that which you attributed to me. I still don't know if you understand what I was saying or not, but no matter, others do.

    Next, as to what you're saying, well to follow-up somewhat on what Jason Ligon has said, I don't think the case for free trade is somehow predicated on some sort of Platonic ideal of "real free trade" being achieved throughout the world before lower tariffs and the reduction of subsidies can have beneficial impact, and I don't know if anyone is making the argument you attribute to free traders that free trade only sucks now because we have not yet achieved "real free trade." I certainly don't see any indication of such skimming the essay titles of the pro free traders on the online symposium.

    That said, I do wonder if WTO goes beyond mere free trade sometimes. To me it just means the equal treatment of domestic and foreign business interests, which basically means eliminating tariffs on foreign businesses and subsidies for domestic businesses and imposing no greater regulations on foreign businesses than those imposed on domestic businesses.

  19. Free trade is not made or lost on one company's (or even one industry's) behavior.

    Essentially, everyone wants a level playing field to compete on though a large % 'everyone' will cheat a little when the opportunity arises.

    Not exactly brain surgery and definitely not worth umpteen posts to argue it.

    I suggest everyone take a timeout and go read P.J. O'Rourke's essay on Hong Kong.

  20. Thanks for the warning.

  21. Ray,

    Okay sure, it's not brain surgery, to you or me anyway, but free trade adversaries have exploited the tendency to cheat to refute the entire legitimacy of the goal, which is a logical fallacy. This is all I ever intended to point out. Was I wrong to do so? And then Sir Real seemed to make the case that such tendency to cheat somehow makes the whole process downright impossible and pointless and he even seemed to imply that going part way somehow does more harm than good. If you think I should have refrained from challenging him on this, you're entitled to your opinion, but I chose to take him on. Semi-sarcastic apologies for boring you!

  22. fyodor,

    I'd say that Big Business DEFINES "free trade" to mean mercantilism on a global scale, and that what they (and pro-"free trade" politiciams) mean by it is quite different from genuine free trade. If we had genuine free trade, there would be no so-called "intellectual property" provisions of GATT, and big business would pay the full cost of transportation and defending its overseas assets through user fees, instead of letting the taxpayer subsidize the costs of foreign investment. If we had genuine free trade, a lot of peasants would still be on their land in Central America (land that was instead used by United Fruit Company), and a lot of labor organizers murdered by SOA-trained death squads would still be alive.

    Free trade requires no enforcement. It requires no WTO, IMF or World Bank to regulate the global economy. All it requires, from the perpective of any given nation, is for that nation's government to take down its own trade barriers, and subsidizing the profits of its capital overseas. If Japan wants to tax its consumers to subsidize its big business, does that make it in America's interest to do likewise? That's like saying I can't afford to stop banging my head against the wall until you do the same.

  23. I think that you should worry about growing plants more and worry less about trading and stuff.

  24. I can Say Fuck on Here?

  25. i have 3 testicles

  26. i want to make business friends,i am doing trade now.

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